In the charity arena, organisations are increasingly using online platforms like facebook and twitter to get their message out, and look to develop their support base.
But what meaningful impact does a ‘like’ or a ‘follow’ have on any? It’s something I’m becoming used to defending as I explore social media and its manifold benefits to a charity’s day to day operations.
Social networks are a way of showing your support for a charity - the easiest way there is. It’s also a way of demonstrating and measuring the support we have. It’s about amplifying our voice and spreading our message, and it’s completely free. Gone are the days of it being OK for a charity to dismiss social networking as a fad, or falling on back on the excuse of being too old, too confused, too intimidated to start tweeting, poking, liking, blogging, posting. We learn, we develop new skills and through this we develop new, advantageous relationships.
Social networks have moved beyond individual usage and have become a worldwide movement. Obama is on twitter; Lady Gaga has grown a following the size of a small nation, just by using 140 characters; and we have seen very recently how current events and the news are directly influenced and dictated by the actions of what the world’s tweeters have to say.
For charities and other organisations that rely on external support to continue running, social media is a way of little by little, planting a seed that ultimately could grow a volunteer, a staff member, a donor, service user or expert in their field. From friends and followers, meaningful relationships do grow.
For charities especially, the social media boom could not have come at a more convenient time. You don’t need to look hard to hear about charities laying off staff, reducing their services and, in some cases shutting down entirely because funding has been cut. A free, limitless platform to advertise an organisation’s creativity, diversity and reach must be seen as a vital tool for any charity trying to keep it’s head above water, let alone flourish and excel in ‘these financial times’.